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Transparency of student government still not entirely clear

Nov 23, 2015

While attempting to be more transparent this semester, the Students Senators Council has fallen short on some promises.

In September, the SSC launched Project 49 in an effort to develop avenues for communication that will promote transparency between the students at all of NYU’s campuses and their representatives.

In an email announcing Project 49, the SSC had promised to keep the student body updated with monthly newsletters and a strong social media presence. The SSC also announced open office hours for students to give feedback and to increase the accountability of the student government process.

However, monthly newsletters have not been sent, the group’s Tumblr page has not been updated since Sept. 28 and while four press releases have been issued, the website has not been updated consistently. Two of the press releases were from this month, while the others appeared in September.

One of those press releases announced that the SSC made its budget public for the first time in history, which is part of their effort to be more transparent.

SSC Chair and Gallatin senior Michael Hengerer said the council has implemented most of Project 49, but there are still areas to improve.

“Although we’ve had technical and logistical issues with the newsletter and our blog, we continually engage the student body by working with student-led organizations on campus, through our open student government meetings, during our office hours, and at our town halls,” Hengerer said in a statement to WSN.

While University Committee on Student Life meetings have an open door policy, SSC meetings are closed to the public due to bylaw regulations and minutes are not released to the student body.

Class of 2018 Activities Board President  and SPS sophomore Rene Rismondo, who meets with senators once a month, said she believes the SSC is continuing to resolve its lack of transparency. Rismondo said while Project 49 is a great objective, other initiatives have delayed the execution of the campaign.

“I am not sure whether the current challenges [the SSC] is facing, such as addressing diversity concerns on campus or the controversial SAB proposal, has caused them to lose focus on the project,” Rismondo said, referring to the debate about funding for student clubs. “But ultimately I do believe that alone is a reflection of their transparency.”

In addition, the plan called for an internal review of the SSC to ensure its members are continuously updated on current campaigns. Rismondo said the SSC is also trying to appeal to the student body by becoming more recognizable, but their efforts are not catching on as of yet.

“They are currently in the process of re-branding themselves more as ‘Student Government’ rather than the SSC because so many more schools around the country use that term and it is also what students are more familiar with,” Rismondo said. “I see their efforts and I appreciate them, but I still think that more needs to be done.”

When it comes to direct communication between the SSC and the student body, SSC Chief of Staff  and CAS junior Ryan Thomas said although Project 49 still has a few kinks to work out, it is a long-term plan that will enhance the SSC’s efficiency.

“We are working on going the extra mile to promote student engagement,” Thomas said. “Project 49 is really geared toward bettering the student population at NYU and we want to make sure we bring different perspectives to all of our campaigns.”

In addition, Thomas said the SSC is working on issuing a campus climate survey to solicit feedback from students and gauge which issues the NYU community would like to see addressed.

“Because our student body is so large, it is extremely important that we focus on issues the majority of students can relate to,” Thomas said. “We want the SSC to drive the conversation to address issues that impact NYU at large and are not just school or campus specific.”

While Washington Square News reached out to ten members of student government, only two responded to inquiries.

A version of this article appeared in the Nov. 23 print edition. Email Lexi Faunce at [email protected].

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